The Wrightslaw Way

to Special Education Law and Advocacy

The Wrightslaw Way random header image

Identifying and Meeting a Child’s Language Needs

by Pam Wright

My son was adopted from a foreign country @ age 7. He is now 9 years old, in the 3rd grade. He did not speak English upon his arrival in this country.

We have formally requested (& it has been documented) 3 times, that he be placed in the SLD Resource Program.

He is currently given the title of ESOL student, although he has never attended an ESOL school.

Can you tell me what the Federal Law says about the requirements for qualifying a child designated ESOL for an SLD classification?

We all know that children must be proficient in English before they can become proficient in other subjects. If your child does not speak or understand English well, the IEP team needs to ensure that your child’s language needs are identified and met.

The team must get an assessment of your child’s English proficiency. This assessment must include objective data about your child’s reading, writing, speaking, and understanding skills.

NE DOE has checklist for determining need and services –


If your child’s English is limited, the school must provide alternative language services to help him become proficient in English. He is entitled to all educational services provided by the school, including special education and related services.

If he is not proficient in English, the IEP team must ensure that special education and related services are provided in his native language. The IEP must specify his needs for instruction in English and/or his native language, and his needs for English language tutoring.

If your child has a disability and is eligible for special education and related services, the IEP team must review his language needs as they develop his IEP. The team must determine how his limited English affects his needs for special education and related services.

The IEP team needs to make decisions about:

  • Whether he will receive instruction in English and/or in his native language so he can participate in the general curriculum
  • Whether he needs tutoring in English as a service in his IEP to meet his individual needs
  • Whether the special education and related services he needs will be provided in his native language.

If your child needs test accommodations that are allowed for general ed students with limited English proficiency (e.g. increased time, translating directions into the student’s native language, etc.), these accommodations should be written in his IEP.

Search your state dept of ed web site – you can often find great help there.

Use Google to search for information. Be creative in your search terms. Search for information using terms like this: “limited English proficiency” “special factors” “IEP” “language needs” etc.

Print Friendly

Tags:   · · · · · · · · · 7 Comments

Leave a Reply

7 Comments on "Identifying and Meeting a Child’s Language Needs"

Notify of

03/25/2014 3:13 pm

The No Child Left Behind Act requires schools to notify parents of children with Limited English Proficiency about the child’s level of English proficiency, how the level was assessed, the child’s academic achievement levels, the methods being used to teach the child, how the program will help the child learn English, and when the child is expected to complete the program. 20 U.S.C. 6312(g)

If your child has a disability, his IEP team makes decisions about how his language affects his needs for special education and related services. The IEP team must decide if his special ed will be provided… Read more »

03/17/2014 9:55 pm

Please cite the law you reference in this statement, “If your child’s English is limited, the school must provide alternative language services to help him become proficient in English. He is entitled to all educational services provided by the school, including special education and related services.”
I could really use it!!

Martha S
12/04/2010 8:05 pm

My 17 yr old adopted Ukrainian son was denied SLD eligibility due to “limited English proficiency,” although the neuropsych provided a Russian/English eval that indicated SLD in both languages. The LEA Director of sped unilaterally denied him services even tho he was told that his learning/language disorders are contributing to his inability to learn English. He came from an orphanage for LD kids and his teachers reported numerous struggles in reg ed 9th grade. Nonetheless, Director over-ruled team to deem him ineligible. Please advise.

09/29/2010 1:18 am

My daughter is in a Dual Immersion Program (Spanish). She has been fluent in Spanish since she has been able to talk. She has been tested in English by a Speech Pathologist and an Educational Psychologist and will be tested this week in Spanish in both areas.
I want to know if the district will be required to give her services in Spanish since she is receiving 80% of her academic instruction in Spanish? It only makes sence to me however, I can not find a law or article anywhere that states that for me.

06/08/2009 8:35 pm

I am an ESL/TESOL teacher. This lady’s son cannot be classifed as LD just because he is an English Language Learner (ELL). He shouldn’t have an IEP based soley on his classification as an ELL. Language issues need to be ruled out before he’s classified as LD or put in a special ed. classroom. Based upon his testing (in NY we use the LAB-R to test into ESL and the NYSESLAT to test out) he should qualify for an amount of time when he is specifically instructed in ESL. If he is getting this instruction,… Read more »

Amy C.
04/07/2009 9:04 am

I have an adopted child from another country at age 3 1/2. While she is coming along ok (age 6 this month), she still has many identifyable issues. She had only 1/2 hr./wk of speech last year (pre-school) and for pre-k only 15 min/wk. because the district didn’t feel she demonstrated need (even after her IEE said she should have at least 60 min./wk.) We are still not done with the situation, but it seems as if the system doesn’t get many foreign adopted children and does not know what to do with this speech issue.… Read more »

03/04/2009 12:03 pm

Is the child still fluent in his native language? When children are adopted from a foreign country, they can lose their first language prior to acquiring competence in their new language. They are, thus, not typical ESOL students, and their language needs are VERY complex. Make sure he is assessed by someone who is experienced in this very specific area, and not by a typical ESOL provider.

If he still has his first language, and his first language is stronger than English, he should be tested in that language by someone who is fluent in that language… Read more »